Fatal traffic accident triggers student rally

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 January, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 January, 2003, 12:00am

More than 10,000 students in Hefei, the provincial capital of Anhui, on Tuesday took to the streets to protest against the city's chaotic traffic, government officials confirmed yesterday.


According to a report in Wen Wei Po, the rally was triggered by a traffic accident in which a vehicle knocked down three students outside the main gate of Hefei Industrial University on Monday evening, leaving two students dead and another in a coma.


About 10,000 young people - more than half of the university's 18,000 students - gathered at the school's main gate at noon on Tuesday and marched to the provincial government office, a student protester said.


'We feel that the authorities must make some efforts to safeguard the safety of citizens as these kind of traffic accidents take place often,' the student said.


'Many drivers ignore traffic lights, so more footbridges and pedestrian tunnels should be built at major junctions.'


The protest paralysed city traffic and police had to divert vehicles, according to university staff.


Police monitored the demonstration but no clashes or arrests were reported.


The students ended their protest after the government promised to improve road safety and investigate the traffic accident, a government spokesman said.


'The public security bureau has established a taskforce to look into the matter and recommendations on road safety will be made should we find it necessary,' he said.


The spokesman also confirmed, without giving further details, that the driver of the vehicle that knocked down the students had been detained.


Observers said the Hefei student protest was one of the largest by undergraduates on the mainland since the 1989 pro-democracy movement.


The traffic accident which prompted the protest was the source of many posts on an Internet chatroom run by the Hefei Industrial University.


A Web page dedicated to the issue included an appeal to students to 'keep calm and refrain from being exploited by illegal activists'.


The page also featured a document, purportedly from the Ministry of Education, instructing provincial authorities to punish the driver and improve road safety around the university.